Date of Award
Master of Science
Although prescribed burning has been used frequently for manipulating habitat, it has been rarely used in grassland areas with the intent to improve habitat quality for wild turkeys (Meleagris gallapavo). I studied breeding season and nest location habitat use of wild turkey hens in response to grassland fire management, and quantified its impact on foraging habitat and insect prey for turkey poults, in a diverse agricultural landscape in southern Illinois. Fire management was conducted on 28 ha of grassland in March and April 2012. Radiolocations from 64 radiomarked hens from 2008-2010 and 44 radiomarked hens from 2012-2013 were used to create turkey habitat and nest location models for both pre-fire and post-fire time periods. Areas used by turkeys throughout all models and time periods were characterized by high proportions of forested habitat. Nest locations during both time periods also included areas with higher percentages of shrubland and edge habitat. Turkey use areas during the post-fire time period were found to be further from burned areas, suggesting that fires on short rotations (1-2 years) were slightly detrimental to habitat needed during the breeding season and for nest locations. Field trials using human-imprinted wild (n=54) and commercial (n=64) strain turkey poults were conducted to assess the foraging efficiency and mobility of poult type within burned and unburned grassland sections. Foraging efficiency of turkey poults did not differ between burned or unburned fields, or between wild and commercial strain poults. All poults showed selection of invertebrate categories Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and Isopoda throughout all grassland field trials, whereas avoidance of Araneae, Diptera, Entognatha, Hemiptera, Lepidoptera, and Orthoptera was exhibited by all poults in all trials. There was evidence to believe that burned grasslands increased the travel efficiency of poults compared to unburned grasslands. Wild poults were able to travel further distances and along less sinuous paths than commercial poults.
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